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Advice sought on windpower

by techno Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 05:52:39 AM EST

I live next to the state of South Dakota.  A look at a wind map would leave almost anyone drooling at the possibilities for making some serious money harvesting all that energy.

The state is sparsely populated (less than 600,000 folks on around 75,000 square miles of land.)  The topography is bleak and only the most sentimental could ever raise objection to wind development on aesthetic grounds.  Any economic development would be welcome.

At least 100 gigawatts of renewable power is just waiting to be harvested in a place with roads and honest governments.  Compared to building offshore, construction is absurdly easy

So the question is, how would a project to build 200,000 5mw wind turbines actually be organized?

Good discussion & resources - from the diaries ~ whataboutbob


Technological problems

Who builds turbines on that scale in those numbers?  While a major car plant can build 200,000 vehicles a year and wind turbines are no more complicated to build, the parts for wind turbines are MUCH larger and that changes a lot of production realities.

How do folks get so much juice to markets?  Who makes the best transmission methods.

Economic and Sociological problems

A project of this scale is beyond simple market capitalism.  How are technological problems solved while providing for the maximum localized economic development?

Such a project has a lot of goodies to spread around, what are the best ways to get the best folks aboard and keep the crooks out?

How does such a project get financed?

Windpower, by it's very nature is a dispersed project, what are the best ways to get so many actors on the same page?

And then there are the political problems.  This is such a huge area I cannot even specify good questions--so consider this an open thread.

There are real world reason why I am asking for advice.  I know someone who is just itching to be the Harold Hill of South Dakota windpower.  I am trying to steer the man in right directions.  I have plenty ideas to be sure, but I need to avoid the obvious problems.

I am creating a promotional "sales kit" for this project.  I have a bunch of raw material--video footage, pictures, etc.  I have an infinity of creative software.  But none of this means much if there are really insurmountable hurdles to this sort of project.  Warnings are welcome.

Display:
but the main question to start with is: who will buy the power? And at what price?

i.e.

  • look at potential demand - the markets around
  • look at what price power is traded there
  • look what the additional cost of transmission to there would be

and that will give you an idea of the economic hurdles you need to beat.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 03:55:04 AM EST
Of course.  I obviously wrote the above too quickly.  Thanks for the amendment.

You must understand, it is quite embarrassing for an American to leave out sales and marketing.  Sorry!

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 05:25:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Given economic viability on the points raised above, if the State of South Dakota wanted to pursue that model, it could commit to building the long distance infrastructure, and fund start-up generators for wind farm coops, organized as owned by the farmers whose land would be used. In return for the wind generators, the coops would commit to investing a certain percentage of their revenue into expanding the wind farm.

If the State, or even local governments, aimed to own the community wind farms ... well, that's politically dicey. But farmer coops are ... well, they're normal things, nothing unusual about them at all.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 10:42:53 AM EST
If the State, or even local governments, aimed to own the community wind farms ... well, that's politically dicey. But farmer coops are ... well, they're normal things, nothing unusual about them at all.

There is more than one way to skin a cat.  There's a growing backlash against the use of property tax abatements for economic development in several states.  And I think that if you end these property tax abatments and the like, you could have local governments for city banks where the charter requires the loans be made only locally, and the city and county governments take a non conrolling interest in the project.  It's no different than the control of corporations that public pension funds have.  

So this way you can have the governemnt determining development with the promise of subsidized cash loans for start ups, instead of allowing large companies to evade their social repsonsibility.

Soft socialism of this variety, where you have localized finance, and a leading role for the government is something that is far easier to sell in North America than outright government ownership even of things like utilities.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 11:03:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is OK in theory, but in the current US environment, Federal intervention would be a calamity.

  • They wouldn't use their buying clout to stimulate efficiency
  • They'd favour their know-nothing cronies
  • They wouldn't have any environmental location parameters

But I could see it working at State level. And read Chris Cook for how that might work. Legal cooperation between State (coordination+legal), Utility companies (buying say, 10 years supply of a certain megawattage at a fixed price), and consumers (buying 10 years supply as above). The State could also buy.

For consumers there might be two rates, one pay as you go, the other where you can buy as many units as you like providing you have the funds (which you could also borrow)

I would have thought that 10 years would pay back the investment,  however the funds come in.

But the US government might change in 18 months - then it could be proposed at a Federal level. Or rather, projects like this should be outlined and presented to selected Democratic candidates as very smart solutions to the energy problems.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 11:38:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An interesting example.

It's taken them ten years, but they're finally ready to start on the UK's first community-owned and community-funded wind farm.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 07:20:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Energy4all calls itself a more-than-profit organization ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 03:36:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They use Victorian vintage "Industrial and Provident Societies" (ie the genetically modified Companies the Cooperative movement uses in the UK) plus a good dose of borrowing.

But it's better for the Community than private development, I grant you, where you're lucky if the Community gets a new bus-shelter....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 04:49:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was being positive ;-)

'More-than-profit' is a good start as a meme in the present

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 05:27:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I admire both the people and what they are doing.

But they are doing it with both hands tied behind their backs!

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 05:38:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, noting everything that you have told us about new wrappers/models for cooperation.

Maybe this is the time to think about 'Organize (Your country here)' being as important for the future as 'Energize (Your country here)'?

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 05:58:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right on the button, as usual, Sven.

How can we "Energise America" when it's "organised" the way it is?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 07:20:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To reclaim the 'means of production' and thereby redistribute wealth more equitably - this is what we have to accomplish. We need to demonstrate that cooperatives/LLPs/self-organizing systems, and all the other alternative non-hierarchical organizational systems can be more efficient, more motivated, more rewarding, more flexible and more socially oriented.

We need to show that 'cutting the fat' is no cure for the obesity of capitalist society. The concept of redundancy and decentralization in a structural system (the brain being a good example) is not an illustration of 'waste', but one of the main features of a healthy and complete ecosystem - as society should be, and as the planet should be.

My pet peeve is monocultures. Apparently efficient and apparently more productive, with all 'fat' cut away, they are indeed more efficient and productive - for quite long periods of time. But they are also dangerously susceptible to total and cataclysmic collapse.

Diversity is what we need to encourage, respect and to ensure.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 09:06:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
btw, just across the border from the Dakotas in Minn are the first examples of farmer-owned or community wind projects in the US.  and they're growing.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 07:26:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and John Deere himself is financing.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 07:27:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We need to demonstrate that cooperatives/LLPs/self-organizing systems, and all the other alternative non-hierarchical organizational systems can be more efficient, more motivated, more rewarding, more flexible and more socially oriented.

The problem is that none of these will make a difference if the motivation behind them remains exploitative.

There's no reason why a traditional market economy can't be run in a socially sustainable way. Increase progressive taxation, especially on unproductive speculation, fund innovation and sustainability, move money towards effective social programs - and so on.

The measures have been tried, they work, and there's no reason they couldn't work again.

What really needs to be changed is the motivation of the players. The Anglo-Saxon disease is based on the principle of fuck-you, and with the right culture fuck-you is just as likely to take over a non-hierarchical corporation as a hierarchical one.

Nothing will improve until the fuck-you narrative is debunked and replaced with a more culturally sustainable and inclusive ideology.

Until then elites will continue to see workers, customers and shareholders as resources to be exploited, and not as equals to be respected.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 11:39:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to speak of the little detail that to claim our hierarchical human structures are not the result of self-organisation is untenable.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 11:45:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 
The problem is that none of these will make a difference if the motivation behind them remains exploitative.

Which is why the requirement is for a framework within which it is to my advantage to cooperate with you/ work WITH you rather than to compete with you/ work FOR you, because we are "both on the same side".

That's what an "Open" Corporate like the UK LLP and its (non-Corporate) US relative, the LLC,  enables, and why the structures I advocate are emerging.

Because they WORK.

They do so by bringing the different stakeholders together "inside the box" rather than leaving them as "costs" to be exploited outside it.

A non-hierarchical "Corporation" is still a Corporation, and it suffers from the fundamental faultline of all Corporations - whether or not "For Profit" - between the interests of the "Principal" Owner, and the "Agent" ie the management, whether they structure themselves hierarchically or not.

Production/revenue sharing between Capital provider/ Investor and user of Capital changes all that. It brings them on to the same side, takes the motivation of "self interest" and turns it around so that our self interest is actually served better by working WITH each other openly, transparently and cooperatively.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 12:19:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but there's nothing to stop - for example - all of us on ET getting together to sell widgets we've designed, setting up an LLP, and then using Chinese sweatshop labour to make the widgets, while we share the profits between ourselves. (Doubtless very equitably.)

LLPs are an answer - one of many - if the desire is there to be ethical in the first place.

If it's not, they do nothing to force ethical behaviour.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 01:33:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course: you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

And conversely, lots of people succeed in trading ethically despite the incentives built in to the system to do otherwise.

Bu then there's nothing to stop the Chinese widget makers clubbing together in their own "People's Corporate", nicking our widget design and selling the widgets directly to our customers on the Net....

My thesis is that a Cooperative of service users, working with a Cooperative of service providers, is actually both an ethical and an optimal structure, and that those enterprises that do not use the structure will be at a disadvantage to those that do.

I guess we'll have to see if I'm right...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 01:48:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a growing backlash against the use of property tax abatements for economic development in several states.

True & a Good Thing, IMNSHO.

What techno and his friend are proposing is different.  200,000 windmills (or even 20 windmills) plus all the infrastructure required cannot be placed onto a couple of trucks and hauled elsewhere.  Nor is the project, like a sports stadium, one of those nice 'economic development' projects where the private owner(s) gather all the income and the public entity gather all the bills.  

A cost/benefit analysis (hint, hint) will reveal the number of windmills for the project, the point at which manufacture of the windmills in-state is economically feasible (break-even,) the point at which manufacture is beneficial (don't forget to include making the spare parts for service & repair!,) and the potential for selling windmills to other installations.  

Speaking to the latter, the manufacturer would be much better off in the long term by selling the windmills at cost plus a little bit and taking the rest of their profit long term, either as a percentage of power, sales, or defined yearly payment.  

Also, selling service contracts is a real money spinner.  That's how IBM made their money in the mainframe days.  Their junk wasn't any better than anyone else's junk but, if you paid them, they would send a repairman out to fix their junk when it broke down.  A not-so-obvious benefit from this is - since you aren't an Idiot, you'll listen - the field service people will be able to tell you where the equipment is failing, how it is failing, and (sometimes) how to change things to fix the failures.  This is the best of all worlds since your customers are paying you to learn how to better manufacture your product and the better your product is the more you can sell.  

I'm not a materials engineer so take the following with much salt:  there are some very exciting materials being reported.  You & friend are in the position to take advantage of them as you do not have an established manufacturing base AND the producers of the materials are, putting it bluntly, hungry they should be willing to help you use the materials in your design.

And what most of this response has to do with MfM's comment escapes me, but WTH.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 01:45:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... an in-state manufacture threshold is a serious concern. The real long term money flows are in the sales of the electricity itself as a durable export base ... and the trick is to ensure that the ownership is, in fact, in-state, so that its not just the wages for maintenance workers that re-circulate in South Dakota.

Which is why I proposed the seed corn approach to establishing the wind farms.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 02:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends on how many they put in SD.  If they are erecting 200,000 of the darn things transportation costs become a major expenditure.

Your proposal and my off-the-cuff remarks are actually complimentary.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 03:03:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... yes, but if they are assembled in SD, the components will still be produced elsewhere, and then there is the issue of whether the assembly should be closer to the component production or closer to the point of installation.

If they are being installed elsewhere at the same time, then it could well be that the assembly into the component units for on-site installation would be somewhere along the rail lines between Chicago and South Dakota, with component production spread through the Great Lakes states and Toronto.

Indeed, off the cuff, that might also be the most natural approach for organizing a coalition in support of the electricity export infrastructure, as into Minnesota and then into the industrial Great Lakes would be a natural direction for electricity export ... especially if it involves an HVDC bacbone tied into local grids in parallel to the regional HVAC distribution grid.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 06:07:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I really like the idea of municipalities and states taking non controlling stakes in these facilities, and working to raise funds locally.  The unique system of social finance in Navarra allowed them to embrace renewable energy.  Navarra is set to be 100% renewable for electricity by 2010.  Which is simply incredible.  The cajas played a huge part in this.

Another possibilit for organizing finances might be a stakeholding instiution built around the National Farmer's Union, to market electricity, and allow for collective action.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 03:04:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In that, I would expect that it would be least controversial for the state to take a stake in the distribution system, and for communities to take a stake on local wind farms themselves ... and, indeed, a community stake would not be hard to build into a farmer's co-op system.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 06:09:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that Gamesa Eolica, a spanish turbine manufacturer has some production facilities in Minnesota.
They've expanded rapidly in the US over the last few years, but there's still a lot of run for growth.

The big problem with the mountain west (in which I include South Dakota is that it makes little sense to send power produced in South Dakota to market in Chicago, because there are significant losses in efficiency sending it that great a distance.  Migeru wrote on this a while back.

Far better is to investigate the placement of wind turbines on the Western Coast of Michigan, and in the relatively shallow waters of lake Erie.  These locations are much better than the West, and there's a shorter trip to market.

Looking for example at Nebraska, there's relatively small areas of Class 3 or higher commerically viable wind areas.  The South Dakota maps are held private, but compare this to the offshore and lakeshore capacity in Western Michigan and Northern Ohio where class 4 and 5 wind areas predominate.

Even better it's very close to a market, so you don't have the transmission issues.  Thirdly, you have a ready made consumer for overnight capacity in the electric arc furnaces churning out steel in these regions.  A second use might be to develop deep lake water cooing systems for the greater Chicago area.  All of which could make Chicago an even greener city.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 03:00:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wind power from South Dakota will be naturally complementary to windpower off the Great Lakes, because they are far enough apart to be statistically independent sources of wind energy, reducing the total energy storage infrastructure required per Terawatt.

The numbers obviously have to be run up, but offsetting the additional transmission costs of windpower from SD is the additional installation and maintenance costs of offshore windfarms.

Indeed, if substantial wind power is installed in the eastern fringe of Lake Michigan and across Lake Erie, then the HVDC transmission from Northeast Ohio through Chicago into Wisconsin could well end up being shared between transmitting power from west to east and transmitting power from east to west. That would reduce the share of the infrastructure costs that would have to be carried by High Plains windfarms.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 06:16:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And what most of this response has to do with MfM's comment escapes me, but WTH.

Well, since Sven gave me a mention in his response to MfM I thought I might as well rise to the bait, and follow up the very useful points made.

It seems to me that an enterprise  model (ie legal and financial structure) is needed that aligns the interests of the turbine producer, developer and the "Community" (who in my book should own turbines).

The requirement is for a model that minimises the total cost of the hardware over time, and that is IMHO a quasi leasing model.

ie bring in the turbine manufacturer as a "manufacturer/operator partner" in an Energy Partnership (LLC or LLP) so that his profit margin:

(a) in producing the turbine; and

(b) in servicing it;

are paid for by allocating to him an agreed proportional "Equity share" in the turbine's production.

The result - particularly if an amount of production were dedicated to depreciation/replacement - could essentially be a sort of "evergreen lease".

The actual "costs" ie whatever amount the turbine manufacturer has to find to pay HIS suppliers, would be funded by selling to Investors units of electricity from the "Pool" of future production.

The resulting "energy debt" would constitute:

(a) an interest-free loan which would be repayable in units of electricity, or their sale proceeds at the market price;

(b) a direct investment in future production of electricity (and a "hedge" against energy price inflation).

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 03:23:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, selling service contracts is a real money spinner.  That's how IBM made their money in the mainframe days.  Their junk wasn't any better than anyone else's junk but, if you paid them, they would send a repairman out to fix their junk when it broke down.

Yeah. Actually, they would stick a flunky in your installation (or a whole lot of them, if needed) to fix stuff in minutes. I was one of them.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 12:31:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...
And I think that if you end these property tax abatments and the like, ... and the city and county governments take a non conrolling interest in the project.

... that is, leaving out that particular mechanism and looking at the overall outcome, would be to do this:

if the State of South Dakota wanted to pursue that model, it could commit to building the long distance infrastructure, and fund start-up generators for wind farm coops, organized as owned by the farmers whose land would be used. In return for the wind generators, the coops would commit to investing a certain percentage of their revenue into expanding the wind farm.

If the coops are state chartered public interest corporations, the commitment to return a share of the revenue into generating capacity expansion, provided the available wind resource and market, could be built into the charter.

In reversing energy from being an import into the state to being an export from the state, then the increase in incomes generated within the state yields the state's financial stake in the individual cooperatives.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 06:12:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
N.Y. Utility Scrapping Ocean Wind Park
Long Island's utility company intends to dump plans to build a $700 million wind energy park in the Atlantic Ocean, a top official said.

"It's just too expensive," Long Island Power Authority Chairman Kevin Law told The Associated Press.
...
Original estimates for construction on the Long Island wind farm were between $150 and $200 million. In 2004, FPL Energy, a subsidiary of Florida Power & Light, won the right to build the project with a bid of $356 million, pending regulatory approvals. The latest estimates put the cost at $697 million.

I should point out that Long Island has some of the highest electricity rates in the country and that the infrastructure to deliver the power is all in place. There is also a looming shortage of capacity. And the site is off the shore in the Atlantic, but has still produced a NIBMY response. It will "spoil the view" (of the horizon, there is nothing to see).

A utility in Texas has also dropped plans.

Anytime there is a substitutable commodity simple economics tells you that it is going to rise in price until it is nearly the same cost as the original. Not to do this is called "leaving money on the table" and is an economic no-no.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 03:52:58 PM EST
to which I answered:


offshore wind is still more expensive than onshore wind (including in Europe, where it has required additional regulatory support to take off), and prices have increased a lot in recent years - for a number of reasons, including higher commodity prices, and stretched suppliers that can ask for higher prices for turbines and equipement in view of strong demand. Cost estimates have also increased as the early return from European projects suggested that some strengthening or midification of various bits was necessary.

But $800M for a 40 turbine (presuming 5MW turbines) farm sounds about right in today's conditions. The prices for electricity they are suggesting in the Newsday article are completely wrong, however. Even with such investment costs, it would generate electricity at around 100$/MWh or less with a decent financing structure (like those I've done), which would make it competitive against gas-fired plants.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 04:32:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said there is also a NIMBY factor. Totally illogical, but there it is.

LI was just turned down for an underwater natural gas pipeline to Connecticut by a federal judge. The alternatives being considered were new gas-fired plants at existing facilities.

If the gas supplies become a factor then perhaps the issue will be looked at again.

Americans are still in denial and refuse to make choices. They want it all. Something will have to give.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 06:15:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The prices for electricity they are suggesting in the Newsday article are completely wrong, however. Even with such investment costs, it would generate electricity at around 100$/MWh or less with a decent financing structure (like those I've done), which would make it competitive against gas-fired plants.

So there's the rub.
Why the inflated cost estimates?
If Newsday got it right, there are factors here that are not obvious, but are crucial. If not--if they are just spinning the data---why?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 12:42:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's been huge price inflation in capital-heavy power plants in just the last year. Coal, wind and nuclear construction costs rising by 20-30 %. This due both to more expensive raw materials and more expensive generators, turbines etc.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 02:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dear Techno,

I just read your article on ET (which I have signed up for), and I thought I could give you a few tips. . I also worked on the EA2020 project (as deb9). I am also affiliated with for profit and a non-profit groups:

Lake Effect Energy, LLC (my company)  http://www.LakeEffectEnergy.com

Buffalo Wind Action Group:  http://www.greengold.org/wind

See Engineering page (http://www.greengold.org/wind/engineering.php  ---> "A Great Potential" and "NYS Energy Manifesto" are a pair of articles that could get you primed for your very nice posting.

Anyway, here are a couple of quick points:

1. Use smaller turbines - such as 2.5 or 3 MW units. Vestas makes a 3MW unit (V90), Clipper, Fuhrlaender and Nordex make 2.5MW ones, Siemens makes 2.3 MW ones, Mitsubishi makes 2.4 MW ones, and then there are the smaller ones (2.1, 2, 1.8, and the GE 1.5 MW ones).  These are ideally suited for installation on land.

The 5 MW (REPower and Prokon-Nord) and 6 MW (Enercon E-126) are really best suited for offshore installation. They are SO big that getting the parts to the site is a job best done by barge, boat and ship. Besides, Enercon does not do business in the US and won't until we get a Renewable Feed-In Law

  1. Get a Renewable Feed-In Law in place, like in Germany and Denmark. This could be implemented in North Dakota by itself, for starts. Then figure out what a decent price for electricity manufacture would be from wind turbines, allowing for a decent rate of return (10% IRR, for example, to 15%), and use that as the price for wind turbine derived electricity. See http://www.wind-works.org for how these RFIL/SOC/ART's work (the process goes by many names).

  2. Get serious about finding uses for some of this electricity inside the state. My favorite is the use of electricty from wind turbines to make H2 and O2 from water via electrolysis, and then to use this H2 to make ammonia (NH3). For example, to supply ALL of the US ammonia needs, about 69,000 MW would be needed. This still leaves enormous excess electricity that would need to be used/sold elsewhere.

  3. Get the updated potential of North Dakota. The OLD one (as seen on the AWEA project map) is 123 GW for ND, but this assumes using old clunker turbines circa 1990 and with a 50 meter hub height. Using 80 to 100 meter hub heights and modern 1.5 to 3 MW units, I would bet the ND capacity is well in excess of 200 GW average output. ND is really windy

  4. Odds are, interconnections with regions outside of ND will be needed - such as via HVDC. While expensive, these would be very worthwhile, especially of state bonding projects. Failing that private companies would do this, but only with guaranteed returns (like liquified natural gas facilities). But this will allow your product (electricity) to get to outside markets, like Minneapolis and eventually, Chicago.

  5. In general, about 4  x 90 meter wind turbines per square kilometer (10 per square mile) can be used before losses due to array interference strt getting really big. Often, 2 x 90 to 100 meter rotor diameter turbines per km^2 would be used, or 5 turbines per mi^2. So, at 75,000 mi^2, and assuming only 50% of the land is usable, this would get you a maximum of around 187,500 --> 200,000 turbines. And with an average output of near 1 MW per large turbine in your winds, this gets you a maximum output of 200 GW, or 45% of the entire US average electricity consumption. Lots of potential.

However, just selling this electricity as a bulk commodity is apt to get your state royally screwed. You won't get much of a profit (due to huge supply that has to be matched to a limited demand (for regional reasons)) from this electricity; but all kinds of other entities and regions will be able to use this electricity in value enhancing ways. A good example of this is Niagara Falls, USA - an economic disaster area, even though 1500 MW of the least expensive electricity in this country is made by a state owned entity. You don't want to replicate this economic disaster, which benefits almost only those who don NOT live in Niagara Falls  and nearby Buffalo.

Good luck in this commercialization effort. If done correctly there could be great benefits to the people  of your state. And if not done correctly, you will be an exploited rural colony of corporate America/Corporate Earth.

Dave Bradley

by nb41 on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 09:48:06 AM EST
Welcome to ET!  Hope to see you around often.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 11:29:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The wind resource in the Dakotas is the strongest and largest in the continental US.  It is reasonably well documented, though there hasn't been much micrositing to date because of costs.  Verification is easy if one looks just across the border into Minnesota, where a small terrain elevation called Buffalo Ridge already has 100's of megawatts installed.  If there is any sanity left in 'murka, the Dakotas will be developed for windpower on the grand scale proposed by techno.

The groundwork is already laid.  FPL has a hundred MWs already in place, with more under construction.  Local utilities like Otter Tail have signed further PPAs, on a small scale, but can't take more power. Development companies already have tens of thousands of MWs under lease, and there are any number of companies carrying it further.  The main problem is that the load is in the industrial mid-west, and there is virtually no transmission available.

The industry in general has been working the transmission issue overtime.  Xcel has nearly completed a new transmission line from the border and Buffalo Ridge to bring the power south, but it's a quite minor first step.  FERC has been negligent in setting transmission policy standards, hindering the process of building new infrastructure.  But they finally set a precedent in California, ordering Edison to build a 1500 MW line to carry an upgrade of windpower in Tehachapi.  Both users and customers will pay ultimately, but the utility must finance.

That will be the precedent which allows various first priority transmission corridors to be built, of which possibly the most important over the long term is from the Dakotas.  But market entrenched entities remain averse to the risk.  It will likely be more entrepreneurial entities whch take the risk, as we've seen on the former TXU line in West Texas.

Now to the level of turbine production.  The global industry today is not currently able to meet demand, and will likely not be able to meet growing demand for several years minimum, DESPITE that every company is ramping up production capacity as never seen before.  But it is not easy, one can't just invest, as Clipper is finding out the hard way.  And the major bearings, primarily for main shaft and to a lesser extent gearbox and yaw bearings, are sourced largely to two companies of which windpower is about two percent of their business.  No help there.  This is the primary bottleneck in today's industry.

There is a huge difference between establishing a new rotor blade facility at reasonable quality, and providing the highly sophisiticated (and LARGE) gearboxes required.  New blades can be turned out a year after investment decision, quality heavy steel perhaps three, if the raw material and advanced skills questions find solution.

But it's important to remember that the global industry is already highly involved in working the Gordian (Dakota) Knot.  It's also important to conjecture that free market capitalism will not solve the problem.

I would like to contribute more to the discussion, but it's past midnight thirty here in Europe.  I'm finishing due diligence on a major EU turbine manufacturer, and am pressed for time.

But i would like to add to US colleagues... stop thinking offshore for now.  It works in the North Sea for any number of reasons that don't hold water yet in amurka.  If the Long Island utility had spent it's money investing in even a mid-west project, it would already be reaping the electricity even with transmission fees, and if it invested in transmission, that would be far more useful at the moment.  (Despite the fact that the argument that offshore US is closer to the load being valid.)  Europe didn't begin to propose offshore on a large scale until it was seen that the top resource areas were BEGINNING to be filled.  Murka is a long way from that.

To develop the Dakota resource demands an Apollo-like project, which addresses issues from raw materials to transport to trained worker availability to transmission.

I'll try to add and respond more, patience please.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 26th, 2007 at 06:48:40 PM EST
And the major bearings, primarily for main shaft and to a lesser extent gearbox and yaw bearings, are sourced largely to two companies of which windpower is about two percent of their business.  No help there.  This is the primary bottleneck in today's industry.

Do you mean:

http://www.earthscan.co.uk/news/printablearticle.asp?UAN=431&noimages=1


About six months after acquiring Bonus, Siemens strengthened its hold on the wind technology hardware market when it bought Flender Holding GmbH.8 This is the parent company of the leading wind turbine drive systems supplier Winergy. The latter controls around 40% of the world market for wind turbine gearboxes, with among its main clients Siemens Wind Power, REpower, Suzlon, Nordex, Ecotècnia,Turbowinds and, most likely, GE and Vestas. However, it was the Siemens Automation

?

by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 06:59:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that gearbox manufacture is focused on two main suppliers, Winergy and Hansen (30% market share), which is owned by Suzlon.  For these companies to remain profitable, they will still need to supply the owners' competition, at least into the mid-term.  Supply contracts remain in place to the competition.  But over the past two years other gearbox manufacturers are both increasing market share and ramping up production.

Siemens stated upon the purchase that they were interested in the parent, and that they would not interfere with the core business.  I wouldn't want my gearbox load data in the hands of the competition, however.  But even they source elsewhere as well.

Many turbine manufacturers source gearboxes from different competing suppliers.  Siemens itself sources from Hansen.  Suzlon didn't source from the company it bought, Hansen, rather Winergy and the small German company Jahnel Kestermann, though that will begin to change soon.  Nordex has three suppliers including a subsidiary of Bosche Rexroth for their new differential gearbox.  Vestas sources from four companies, including Finnish Moventus.  Gamesa sources from five companies, as does GE, though GE is slowly increasing production at another GE subsidiary.  REpower sources from three companies, and a fourth, RENK (new to the industry) provides only for the giant 5M.

New production capacity is beginning to come online in China and India (where else?), and almost everyone in Europe is adding capacity.

But nearly all large gears (main shaft) come from FAG or SKF.  And there's the rub.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 08:06:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you everyone.  These responses were helpful--helpful enough to get me off my butt and get back to work on this promotion package.

Not long before my mother died, I was visiting her during a rainstorm.  She had lost most of her mind but suddenly, the wind began to blow very hard.  She looked at me with wide eyes and asked, "Are we in North Dakota?"

We only lived in western North Dakota for 18 months during the 60s.  Yet that wind is such a presence, it triggered a memory 35 years later in an old woman with perhaps 2% left of her mind.  My strongest impression of our stay out there was that a boxcar got loose on the tracks of the Great Northern Railway during a blizzard and was blown by the wind 150 miles (250 km) before they could stop it.

Anyway, enough anecdotal evidence.  Here are the wind maps of the Dakotas.  Is there ANY reason why I should not use these?



"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 02:46:59 AM EST
The NREL maps are reliable for serious prospecting, and can be used as a rule of thumb.  Especially when thinking about the region as a whole.  Individual sites still have to be measured and/or calibrated to reliable long-term measurements.  I'm trying to think of who up there would be worth talking to, as that's a good way to get a current lay of the land.  But speaking with NREL might also prove valuable.  There'a a program called Wind Powering America which has also been involved with some of the tribes up there, some of whom have refurbished older turbines if i recall.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 03:36:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Couldn't this be a First Nation initiative?

Better than casinos, anyway. They have the land. They have the mythology.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 10:49:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Techno,

Note that in the above two maps, the wind speeds are listed for a 50 meter hub height. How QUAINT!!

To get to an approximation of the wind speeds at 80 meters of hight for flat land areas, a minimum roughness length of 0.1 meter can be used.

For areas with a 7 m/s wind speed or more at 50 meters, the wind speeds rise to more that 7.5 m/s at 80 meters height. Odds are, the 0.1 meter roughness length is too low, which means that the 80 meter hub height wind speeds are actually faster than if a roughness length of 0.1 meters is used.

In other words, using modern wind turbines, which means those the size of the GE 1.5 MW unit OR bigger, bumps the color used on the maps up by "one notch". For example, the orange zones (6.5 to 7 m/s) bump up by at least a factor of 1.0756, to roughly 7 to 7.5 m/s. While this seems small, remember that the energy produced is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. So bumping the hub height wind speed from 7 to 7.5 m/s gives an increased production potential of close to 23%.

When more realistic roughness lengths are used for flat regions (like 0.25 meters), the power increase is close to 1.3 times that of the output at 50 meters hub height for the 7 m/s level. At the "pink zone" of 7.5 m/s at 50 meters, wind speeds would be nearly 8.2 m/s.

At such speeds, modern wind turbines have net outputs of more than 40% in dispersed arrays. Such results have been seen in wind farms such as the Judith Gap one in Montana (150 MW capacity), and the Lamar array in Colorado (~165 MW).

So, the potential is there for massive electricity generation. But this potential is going to be severely limited by the really cheap electricity prices in the regions, due to the use of the REALLY cheap but huge surface deposits of lignite coal in the Great Plains (especially in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota). So many of the politicians in the regions feel thay have to kiss butt to the coal industry, and moan about how this dangerous resource with respect to climate change is being ignored.

So, good luck with your proposals.

nb41

by nb41 on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 10:16:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, have you seen this scare story from Der Spiegel (via Business Week) about wind turbines falling (literally) into pieces onto unsuspecting neighbors?

How big an issue mechanical failures are in existing deployments and how is this driving new designs?

by Bernard on Mon Aug 27th, 2007 at 05:01:52 PM EST
I have no doubt whatsoever that these early wind turbines are going to have MAJOR teething problems.  In fact, if I were in charge of wind turbine production, I would hire a BUNCH of folks with automotive experience because their products were once just as unreliable and for largely the same reasons.

Some important matters are still unknown.  For example, do we really know that a turbine blade made from composites can reliably absorb the stress and torque of harvesting 6 mw of energy for 25 years while being subjected to all sorts of environmental indignities?  How about 40 years?

The wind turbine industry seems a lot like the aircraft industry in 1934.  The parts are there.  There have been significant and important designs. But it will still take several decades before they reach the utterly reliable stage.

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"

by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2007 at 02:08:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I responded in the Salon two days ago, but it's worth copying here too:


That Spiegel story on supposedly dangerous wind turbines comes exclusively from comments by the insurance industry.
Of course, no mention is made of the fact that the insurance industry most money in the wind sector because they were TOO FUCKING STUPID to do proper due diligence (i.e. examining the risks they were taking) and got burnt.

And where they have lost money is not the few isolated cases of technical incidents (the article lists what I suspect are ALL the major incidents - which means that with 20,000 turbines around, very little is acutally happening) - they lost money because of transmission problems: some lines were shut down for non wind related reasons, but the policies they had granted gave compensation to all the wind farms connected to these lines for lost revenues.

But it's so easy to now scream that the industry is unreliable. wankers.

Our own detailed studies - and those that are public - show that the reliability of the turbines is currently increasing and is above the levels that were announced a few years back (which were themselves higher than those we used to finance projects).

But no - one blade fell off somewhere - oooh, the whole industry is evil. Quick, let's build coal fired plants.



In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2007 at 03:45:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the insurance industry *l*ost money...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 28th, 2007 at 03:46:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The editor in chief of Der Spiegel has his weekend Pferdehof in the Untermarck, and is quickly being surrounded by spinning rotors producing clean energy.  That explains his bullshit propaganda, but doesn't excuse it of course.  But don't worry, he's on our list.

Perhaps you, and all interested, should come to the Husum wind fair next month, Sep 18-21.  It's been described as Xmas and Birthday for the industry all rolled into one.  Every two years the industry gathers in a tiny town to celebrate and move the industry forward, in an environment which can never be provided by a major trade fair in a major city (though it remains a major trade fair.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Aug 28th, 2007 at 03:40:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But no - one blade fell off somewhere - oooh, the whole industry is evil. Quick, let's build coal fired plants.

Welcome to the nuclear industry experience. ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Aug 29th, 2007 at 06:04:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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